One of the most challenging aspects of being a teacher is planning out the year ahead. What will your program look like? What do you want the students to achieve? How are you going to get the most out of the time you have? How are you going to prepare them for the future? These questions can be particularly difficult to answer if you are a beginning teacher or a teacher return to a particular year group or class after an extended leave.
As a result I would like to share some of my scope and sequences, assessments and over due course programs. These are not top secret. In fact, I am unsure why so many teachers are protective of theirs. So to begin, I would like to share with you my Preliminary Drama scope and sequence and assessment tasks (abridged) for the year.
Three points to note:
1. They are not perfect and will never be completely perfect. I don't pretend they are.
2. They are ever changing. I get bored and need to change things often. I also change tasks and programs to meet the particular needs of my students.
3. They are written to my strengths as well as the strengths (and weaknesses) of my students. Eg. My program looks different now that I am in an all girls school to when I was in a co-ed school.
Please also note that if you are reading this on a phone the documents will not fully load. You must use a computer to see the documents.
Scope and Sequence
Assessment 1 plus Marking Criteria
Assessment 2 Marking Criteria
Assessment 3 - Marking Criteria
Assessment 4 Marking Criteria
Two years ago I introduced spoken word (or slam poetry) into my year 9 program. It is a powerful performance medium and one that is increasing in commonality. Some may argue that is does not constitute as drama but I feel there is a great benefit for our students.
Spoken word poetry:
We begin the unit by exploring and analysing various pieces of slam poetry. Students immediately become defensive stating, “Are you kidding Miss? There is no way we can do that.” However, with some gentle encouragement, effective scaffolding and peer support, poems are quickly formed and ready for editing.
One of my favourite ways to generate poetry is through a sharing circle. Students sit in two circles (inner and outer) facing a partner. Each student has a number of post-it notes and a pen. I then pose a question (see below) and they have one minute to generate an answer on a post-it note. They then have another minute to discuss the question and the answers with their partner. Afterwards, the outer circle rotates one place to the right and we begin the process again. We use this to generate ideas. Ten questions are probably enough to begin with. Students then take their post-it notes and lay them out on a large sheet of paper. The routine Generate-Sort-Connect-Elaborate assists in the expansion of ideas. This is done individually. Students then use this brainstorm as a platform to formulate ideas for their poem. Some students may need an extra question or two to stimulate thinking. The only rule is that the poem must be about something that is important to them. If they are not passionate about the topic then the poem will not be effective.
If you could change one thing about the world what would you change?
What word makes your tounge heavy?
When was the last time you felt your heart beat fast?
Is there anything you wish you could change about yourself?
What have you learnt the hard way?
What or who inspires you?
How would you define yourself?
How are you changing the world with your choices?
When have you fallen?
When have you stepped up?
What's not worth waiting for?
When you look into your heart, what do you see?
What don't you want to believe?
Once the students have a topic and a clear understanding of spoken word poetry I introduce them to a form of performance called human video (or as it has been termed in my classroom ‘body slam’). Last year one of my students said they had stumbled on this youtube clip that they wanted me to watch. I was intrigued by the form of performance and ended up in a youtube timezone watching clip after clip. From what I can gather ‘human video’ originated in a church group in America and was initially developed to express Christian values or gospel stories. Although seeped in Christian context the performances are difficult to turn away from. They are essentially moving images created through physical theatre, dance and acro to an accompanying soundtrack. We watch a few of my favourites in class (see two below) and we compare them to spoken word poetry. In this instance movement is the means of expression rather then spoken word. Which is more powerful? Could we meld them together? Students then are given a choice to use spoken word, body slam or a combination of both for the final task.
We also experiment through practical activities with both of the mediums. One exercise involves a verse by Marianne Williamson. Students are broken into small groups. One person in the group must read the verse (with passion and expression) and the remainder of the group must physicalize the poem using body slam techniques. Layer this with some beautiful music (I use River Flows by Yiruma) and the performances will give you goosebumps. We actually turned this activity into a performance piece for our presentation evening this year. It was extremely moving.
I also introduce the students to a poem that can be read forwards and backwards. You can find it here. Like the above exercise, one student must be the poet reading the text while the rest of the group must create physical images to accompanying the voice. When the poem is read backwards the physical image must be performed in reverse. It takes a great amount of critical thinking to compete this task with many of the students complaining that their ‘brains hurt’ after performing.
As students are writing, rehearsing and preparing their final performances they are constantly encouraged to share with their peers and receive feedback. All the students find this task challenging and so they are very supportive of each other. In the final performance they are encouraged to cheer and make noise during the performances when they see fit. The level of trust is elevated as students realise that just as they are sharing something they are passionate about or care about, revealing a little of themselves, so too are their peers. As a class group the students learn a lot about each other and find they have things in common that they never realised. For me, I am given an insight into what is important to them and what they are interested in. This is a privilege and an advantage for any teacher.
A few points to note:
I hope this post inspires you to take a leap into this unique performance medium. Remember, if you take risks, so to will your students.
In the very last week of term I ran a visioning workshop with year ten students. The students used magazines, paint and canvases to create their own vision boards for 2017. A vision board is a collection of hopes, dreams, inspiration and goals. The practice of visioning also increases mindfulness and an awareness of self. I used prompts from my program Project <3 as starting points to generate thinking around a variety of areas in their lives such as relationships, adventure, personal growth, health and wellbeing. The students loved the workshop and their vision boards were amazing! This would be a great introduction exercise at the start of the school year to motivate students and inspire them to strive to reach their goals. It is also a great way for you to learn more about them and what they wish to achieve. Feel free to use this resource in your own school or workshops. If you have any questions about how I ran the workshop or any of the prompts please feel free to email me or comment below.
The Visible Thinking Routines have been created by Harvard’s Project Zero and can be found in full here. My hope is that my thinking around each routine sparks an idea for you that can in turn grow and develop into deep thinking for your students. I would love to hear how you are using these routines in your classroom so please feel free to comment below. This weeks routine in practice is the Colour, Symbol, Image.
As I have mentioned previously, my school is working towards creating a Culture of Thinking. I have gained so much from the learning opportunities I have had in relation to this educational approach. I now wish to pay this forward to you. Each week I am aiming to post some thoughts and ideas around a Visible Thinking Routine. The Visible Thinking Routines have been created by Harvard’s Project Zero and can be found in full here. My hope is that my thinking around each routine sparks an idea for you that can in turn grow and develop into deep thinking for your students. I would love to hear how you are using these routines in your classroom so please feel free to comment below. My first routine in practice is the Creative Hunt.
I was recently introduced to the use of protocols in educational settings as a Professional Learning Group Facilitator. A protocol is a formal procedure or system of rules. As teachers we may use mini-protocols or practices in our classroom regularly, but rarely do we write out a formal procedure. I have found that using a formal protocol places attention on the process (let’s call it the thinking!) rather then the outcome. It also allows student to come at a task equally. Each student understands the norms of the activity as there is a clear guideline and therefore they know what to expect. For students with learning needs the protocol can act like a safety net while students who are academically gifted are able to fine tune their thinking processes due to the scaffolded approach.
I have developed the following protocol specifically for use in the drama classroom. When students perform scenes in my classroom we most definitely follow it up with discussion. However, this was a practice in my classroom that I feel was not as effective as it could be. Hence I developed the Scene Analysis Protocol. I have been using it with my senior students for the last few weeks for in-depth discussion and analysis of our HSC texts. It appears simple, but it is scaffolded in such a way that they are pushed to examine each component of a given performance. I have been very selective about which class performances we use this for as there needs to be depth in what they are presenting. For example, during our study of Jane Harrison’s Stolen students workshopped two different scenes for presentation to the class. During the workshopping process I noted which of the two scenes had more depth in the directorial choices and manipulation of the elements that could feed a rich discussion. I left that performance for last and we launched straight into the Scene Analysis Protocol. As the protocol goes for 20 minutes you need to ensure you allow enough time for it to work effectively.
A few things to note:
- Stick to the timeline. Don’t be tempted to rush through it. We need to make time for deep thinking to occur.
- Allow silence. If you are sitting in silence for a minute and a half after a few elements have been initially rattled off, then so be it! Silence is not wasted time. The students will still be analysing and deconstructing what they saw.
- After your initial prompt - “Ok… now we are going to verbally identify any Dramatic Techniques and Conventions that were evident in the performance. For example, Poetic language, humour, flashback.” - don’t say anything! Do not single out a kid for a response. If you feel they are really struggling. You might contribute an answer to model what is expected. “I noticed the use of traditional indigenous language by Sandy’s character.
- I have used butcher’s paper as the initial way to note down the discussion. You could use a whiteboard, liquid chalk on a window or mirror, butcher’s paper or a Google doc. I personally feel it is more easily accessible by hand. I have also taken photos of our notes to place on our shared Google Drive / Classroom in case the students want to refer back to it later.
If you want to know more about protocols in the classroom check out the book The Power of Protocols (2015) by McDonald, Mohr, Dichter, & McDonald. There are some generic protocols in the book as well as suggestions on facilitating and getting started.
I hope this protocol is useful for use in your classroom. I would also love any feedback on the protocol, how you have used it in your classroom and whether or not you found it useful. If you have any further questions about its use I am more then happy to answer them. Just comment below or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
This is a sample of the group notes from a scene that lasted 2 minutes. The thinking (although messy) is rich and was used to write deep logbook reflections on the scene "Shirley Never Gives Up Searching" from Stolen by Jane Harrison.
Christmas is coming up super quickly and I am sure there are many Catholic drama teachers, REC's and liturgy coordinators starting to plan their Christmas celebrations. I know how challenging it can be to try and think of a new way to tell the Christmas story each and every year, (I mean we all know how it turns out right?), and so as my Christmas gift to you I am sharing The Littlest Angel. This short dramatisation has been written to celebrate not only Christmas, but also the Jubilee Year of Mercy. I hope some of you are able to use it and I would love some feedback if you do. Happy christmas preparations!
"Listening and questioning are the basis for positive classroom interactions that can in turn shape meaningful collaboration, which can then build a culture of thinking. At the heart of these two practices lies a respect for and interest in students' thinking."
― Ron Ritchhardt, Making Thinking Visible
Considering preexisting attitudes and accounting for diverse perspectives can be challenging for young students. This set of visible thinking routines focus on fairness and assist students in exploring complex dilemmas. Detailed descriptions of each routine can be found here. These ideas are not my own, but a valuable resource which I believe should be shared and widely embraced. Please feel free to print them and display them in your classroom.
(All images have been sourced from Unsplash.)
"When we make the thinking that happens in our classroom visible, it becomes more concrete and real. It becomes something we can talk about and explore, push around, challenge, and learn from”
― Ron Ritchhardt, Making Thinking Visible
Creativity is the perfect means by which we can explore, challenge and learn about a given topic. This set of visible thinking routines focus on creativity and assist students in dissecting creative perspectives and making creative decisions. Detailed descriptions of each routine can be found here. These ideas are not my own, but a valuable resource which I believe should be shared and widely embraced. Please feel free to print them and display them in your classroom.
(All images have been sourced from Unsplash.)
Amy Gill -